ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Natural gas experts say investing in an Alaska natural gas pipeline will be a multi-billion-dollar gamble. They analyzed the economic benefits and potential pitfalls of the project at a public forum Saturday.
If there's one thing on which the experts are certain, it's that the future is uncertain -- but investors considering a stake in building a pipeline want more information than that.
“It's up to the private investors to take an investment and look across the generations and see: does natural gas, delivered to the Lower 48 from where we have it, make sense in the lower-term energy mix?” said Ed Kelly with Wood MacKenzie.
According to the experts, it's their job to create a framework for that uncertainty -- a map that government officials and investors can use to move forward with decisions which will affect generations to come.
“Really, natural gas’s ultimate role in the energy mix is one, how do we choose to use natural gas versus (how) we choose to use other fuels -- especially coal, especially renewables -- for power, for power generation?” Kelly said.
With predictions as far-reaching as 30 years into the future, there’s a consensus about the variety of long-term risks to consider, including how shale gas wells will perform over time.
The experts also say environmental resistance to development is at an all-time high, but there are bright spots in the future as well which make it tempting to place bets on a gas pipeline.
“We're probably going to see more gas-fired electric generation, and as we try to integrate renewable energy into the electric grid, it begin variable in nature,” said Jeff Wright, director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects. “We're going to need stable fuel for those gaps when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, those variable sources.”
Predictions show demand will grow and prices will go up -- two key ingredients to creating a pipeline. Experts say the bottom line is that even though the outlook looks good, anything can happen.
Public television’s Gavel to Gavel will air coverage of the forum next weekend from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 29 and from noon to 3 p.m. on Jan. 30.
Contact Jackie Bartz at email@example.com